Toughie 1952 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1952

Toughie No 1952 by Shamus

Hints and tips by Kitty

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating  –  Difficulty ** –  Enjoyment ****


Hello to you all on this fine Cluesday, the start of the Toughie week.  I have no idea if Shamus is getting a little less spiky or if it’s just that I’m getting used to his style.  Anyway, I had fun solving this and hope you did too.

Definitions are underlined in the clues below and indicators are italicised when quoted in the hints.  You’ll find the answers inside the buttons.  The exclamation mark is not an imperative — click only if you wish to reveal all.

As usual you may click on pictures to enlarge them or uncover hidden extras.



1a    Hear name broadcast about plant? It’s served by an institution (9,4)
CATCHMENT AREA:  Hear or make out followed by an anagram (broadcast) of NAME around (about) a plant also known as vetch

9a    Newspaper is established outwardly like the best parties? (9)
ORGANISED:  A publication, the IS from the clue, and the outer letters (outwardly) of established.  I’d say that the question mark is essential to the definition here!

10a   Some type storing sauce (5)
PESTO:  The answer hides in plain sight in some of the clue

11a   Look after losing power that is disturbing (5)
EERIE:  Start with a word meaning look narrowly or closely without (after losing) its initial P(ower), then add the abbreviation for that is

12a   Set of ten letters in educational institution (4)
ETON:  Split (1,2,1) this would give an alphabetical string of ten letters

13a   Scale, maybe, in two pages (4)
LEAF:  I got this from the second definition: a sheet of paper.  The answer also lends it name to any similar structure such as a scale

15a   Striking appointment for remote location (7)
OUTPOST:  A charade of on strike and an appointment or position

17a   Fuss amid cure formulated in SA country (7)
ECUADOR:  Fuss or commotion inside (amid) an anagram (formulated) of CURE

18a   Definite thing that spins in a type of car (7)
HARDTOP:  A charade of definite or concrete and a spinning toy

20a   One on deck maybe boasted by castle? (7)
CREWMAN:  Boasted plus a game piece which may be (hence the ?) a castle

21a   What conductor once oversaw king play in public? (4)
BUSK:  The charades have bunched together in this puzzle.  A vehicle which used to have a conductor and the cards or chess abbreviation for king

22a   US short story writer mentioned Spanish tipple (4)
CAVA:  A Spanish sparkling wine sounds like (mentioned) an American writer of short stories and poetry who I had to guess-and-google

23a   Tree of broad size with crown pushed forward (5)
MAPLE:  Take an adjective meaning wide or large and move the first letter (crown) to the right (pushed forward)

26a   Green inhabitant banning first of trucks (5)
NAIVE:  An inhabitant or national without (banning) the first letter of trucks

27a   A chairman died going over to protect copper and medic in TV genre (9)
DOCUDRAMA:  The reversal (going over) of A from the clue, a former Chairman of the Communist Party of China and D(ied), containing (to protect) the chemical symbol for copper and an abbreviation for a medic

28a   Choose spoken part, we’re told, as a basis for democracy? (9,4)
ELECTORAL ROLL:  String together choose (5), spoken (4), and a sound-alike (we’re told) of a part played



1d    Mean bottle chosen? One’s losing heart after review (5,2,3,4)
CLOSE TO THE BONE:  An anagram (after review) of BOTTLE CHOSEN OnE (one’s losing heart)

2d    Woods, say, close to giant Swiss mountain with top obscured (5)
TIGER:  The nickname of a famous Woods is formed of the last letter of (close to) giant followed by a Swiss mountain missing its first letter (with top obscured)

3d    So supporting, with tips from trainers helping from now on (10)
HENCEFORTH:  So or therefore, supporting or in favour of, and the initial letters of (tips from) trainers and helping

4d    A period to rest briefly after end of chore that’s most basic (7)
EASIEST:  A (from the clue) and a daytime nap missing its last letter (briefly) come after the last letter (end) of chore

5d    Being not properly developed bit Eastern European (7)
TADPOLE:  An informal word for a bit and a person from a country in Eastern Europe

6d    Beef not good that’s finished (4)
RIPE:  Remove G(ood) from a beef or complaint to get finished or mature

7d    Pet commonly found by barrier in capital (9)
AMSTERDAM:  Drop the aitch from (commonly) a small animal often kept as a pet and put him next to a water barrier

8d    Annual event largely still left for exchange by a number? (10,4)
CONFERENCE CALL:  Bring together an annual set of meetings, most of (largely) a word meaning still or quiet, and L(eft).  The annual event is for me a bit close to its meaning in the answer to be entirely satisfying

14d   Fashion icon deplores muck not half spread (10)
SUPERMODEL:  An anagram (spread) of DEPLORES with MUck (muck not half)

16d   Means of entry in ground lest I should emerge? (9)
TURNSTILE:  An inverse clue: LEST I should emerge from following a four-letter anagram instruction with an anagram of those letters

19d   Praise place given financial check (7)
PLAUDIT:  The abbreviation for place and an examination of accounts

20d   Provider of tales new for all to see, an opportunist? (7)
CHANCER:  Take a poet of the Middle Ages best known as the writer of a famous set of tales and swap in N(ew) for the film classification meaning suitable for all to see

24d   A lot of wine encloses area that’s quiet in bars? (5)
PIANO:  Most of (a lot of) a wine grape goes around (encloses) A(rea).  This gives the musical word (written in bars) for quiet

25d   By the sound of it, top dog (4)
PEKE:  A homophone (by the sound of it) of a top or summit is a shortened informal form of a breed of dog


Thanks Shamus.  Once again I had trouble choosing favourites, but will pick out for special mention the clues with a musical flavour: 21a and 24d.  I also enjoyed 16d.  Which had you spinning around?


This isn’t the ideal place for it (I haven’t even collected the data for the Toughies, though could do that if there is any appetite for it) but since the final 2017 review is now in I have the full set of ratings of the back page puzzles, and I’d like to pop my key findings here:

  • Over the last three years (I haven’t collected earlier data) enjoyment ratings have increased (2017’s average is over 7% higher than 2015’s)
  • At the same time, average difficulty ratings have decreased by nearly 10%
  • Last year there were only five difficulty ratings higher than 3*: three Thursdays puzzles deemed 3*/4* and two 4*s, one on a Tuesday and one on a Wednesday.  Not a single 4*/5* or 5* has been given (in contrast, there are 46 1*s)

Here is a graph of the ratings by days of the week.  Click it for a larger version and to reveal the average difficulty and enjoyment ratings over 2017.


21 comments on “Toughie 1952

  1. I found this quite challenging but it was a wonderful puzzle with some very inventive cluing and definitions. 16d was my favourite but there were plenty of other candidates to choose from.

    20a? Mmm … I’ll let Shamus off on account of the question mark!

    Many thanks to him for the entertainment and to Kitty.

    1. 20a. I think the ? is a good (and ameliorating) compromise by the setter. Although the definition castle=rook may not appear in the BRB, it does appear in the equally authoritative (at least) latest edition of the SOED and in The Oxford Companion To Chess, specified as colloquial/informal. So, hopefully everybody can be happy now.

      1. Well I think that the ? is actually there to indicate that castle is a definition by example (of man) but I don’t want to upset our pet Rabbit!

        1. Yes, that is true – I was agreeing with RD’s interpretation of the ? for purely diplomatic reasons. That’s OK, you can deflect the upbraid onto me – I can take it. I like rabbits too. :-)

  2. Mostly straightforward, but I made heavy weather of the last few, perhaps because of a prolonged tussle with Imogen in the Guardian. Enjoyed this one – a nice variety of devices. 21 was last in – no excuses for that in retrospect…

    Thanks to Kitty and Shamus

  3. An enjoyable puzzle from Shamus which I thought was a bit tougher than the Tuesday average – thanks to him and Kitty. My top two clues were 21a and 16d. I didn’t enjoy 22a because a) I’d never heard of the writer and had to go hunting for him and b) his name doesn’t sound anything like the Spanish tipple to my ears.

  4. In general I enjoyed this very much. 22a was my last in by a long shot. Not only had I not heard of the writer, I was unfamiliar with the tipple as well which added up to a lot of tedious Googling that finally gave me the answer. However, like Gazza, I wasn’t completely convinced that it worked as a homonym. Many thanks to Shamus and Kitty.

  5. Last ones in were 13a and 8d in this enjoyable crossword.
    No problem with the homophone in 22a as I know that I have to substitute the a for an Ar or Er sound.
    Liked the E to N in 12a.
    Thanks to Shamus and to Kitty.

  6. I’d have given this a bit more than 2* for difficulty as some of the parsing took me quite a while but, of course, in retrospect it all seems a great deal easier.

    13a – I had the right answer for some time but wasn’t overly convinced and didn’t enter it in the grid until it ‘had to be’. Loved the illustration for that one, Kitty – any more information on it?
    22a – a bung in from the parsing point of view. My apologies to the author in question but I had never heard of him or any of his works.
    23a – one of those constructions, like ‘cycling’, that always throws me into confusion. I can never decide which direction is involved – thank goodness the answer was obvious.
    27a – got into a real tangle with the parsing of this one so resorted to writing down the ‘must be’ answer and parsing it in reverse.
    8d – Shamus obviously never worked for the same type of company as I did – we were subjected to what he terms ‘annual events’ on a depressingly regular basis. Perhaps he should have included a reference to politics?

    I’ll settle on the same two as Gazza for the prizes today – 21a&16d.

    Many thanks to the little leprechaun and to our Girl Tuesday for the blog and extras. Would you think it fair to assume from the data that the BD site gets most comments from ‘regulars’ and that we have all marginally improved over the year?!!

    1. Hi Jane,

      I took another look and found here that the artist is called Lorenzo Durán. Had I done that earlier I’d have used the one at number 4 for you.

      As for the stats, we know from the surveys that the typical blog visitor rates puzzles higher for difficulty than the reviewers do. This may be because the bloggers get attuned to a particular setter’s style, so find their puzzles easier.

      1. Thank you for the link, Kitty, what beautiful work he has produced. I’d love to own any one of them but, yes, No.4 was certainly rather special.

  7. We also found this one a bit tougher than we were expecting but certainly delivered plenty of enjoyment.
    Thanks Shamus and Kitty.

  8. Just popping in to thank Kitty for her blog and everyone for commenting – glad I didn’t get too many scratches! Happy New Year if it’s not too late

    1. Hi and thanks, Shamus. Any chance you’ll be free to come along to the Birthday Bash – we’d love to see you there.

  9. Rather tougher than the usual Shamus, l thought, but 3*/4* on balance. Some clever clues here, of which the very simple 21a was my favourite. Thanks to Shamus, and to Kitty for the review.

  10. A gentle start to the Toughie week, but no less enjoyable for it. I thought I was in trouble at the close on 21ac and 22ac but stopped, took a little time to think about them, and it quickly became clear neither clue was as scary as it looked. Some nice generous long answers round the edge of the grid a definite help, as were some pretty clearly flagged definitions to the west.

  11. No time yesterday, but completed reasonably quickly today. Very nice puzzle. At the simpler end of the Shamus spectrum, methinks. ***/****. 12a my favourite. It had to be, but took a while for the parsing penny to drop – then when it did, that made me smile. Reminds me of HIJLKMNSO.

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